It’s interesting. I always pictured that, when the day came to eventually write an article about Chris Hardwick and the work he’s done with Nerdist and ID10T, it would be after his podcast (dubbed ID10T With Chris Hardwick) posted their one thousandth episode. He was on track to do so this year. I even had a cheesy little article title planned out: 1000 Burritos Later: What I’ve Learned From The Nerdist/ID10T Way.
I’m done trying to hide who I am, and I’m done trying to create this illusion that I’m this perfect person with the perfect life. I’m not. My name is Jared Stossel. I’m an aspiring musician who has just barely been able to get up off his ass due to serious stage fright and emotional damage I’ve been reconciling with over the last few years. I deal with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, every day since I was ten. I run an outlet that I’ve been trying to build for the last several years called Shameless Promotions, where I photograph live shows and interview people in entertainment that I find interesting (both in written form and with a podcast) I don’t make any money off of this, so I have to support myself in other ways. In the past, I’ve ran a charity called The Project 143 Foundation, which I consider one of my biggest failures. I work morning shifts in the Operations department of a Guitar Center in the Bay Area. It’s not the job I want for the rest of my life, and the hours aren’t perfect, but I love the people that I work with and it’s a great place for where I want to be in my life right now. I also work at a radio station in San Francisco called Alt 105.3 (previously the legendary Live 105), as a Promotions Assistant. When we’re not doing events like the annual BFD or Not So Silent Night, where I’ve done everything from Artist Runner, to Press Assistant, to standing at a table handing out flyers, I’m working promotional events everywhere in the Bay Area. Some are glamorous, and others are not. I'm not complaining by any means, just trying to showcase that not everything is perfect.
If you had talked to me the other day, I would have tried to stretch this a bit. “Oh, I work in the Promotions Department at Alt 105.3. Oh I work occasionally at Guitar Center, doing administration work in the mornings.” I would say these things because I felt it necessary to try and build a facade. All I’ve ever wanted is for people to look at me a certain way. It’s my biggest downfall. I’ve wanted everyone to assume that I have this perfect life, or at least make it look like I have one. That’s the scary thing about Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media outlet. It warps reality, and makes others perceive you as something that you may not completely be.
This morning, when I was working at Guitar Center, I received a text from my girlfriend. It said, “Who is Chloe Dykstra?” I answered with what I knew, and then I received a link that I can fairly say changed the course of my entire day, and not to exaggerate, perhaps the course of my entire life.
See, I’m what I would call a passionate fan of things. When there is a show, artist, musician, podcast, director, actor/actress that I come to adore, I completely dive into their work. I strive to absorb every little nuance and detail about the way that they perform, the way they structure their craft. In 2013, when I was at what I would consider the lowest point of my life thus far, I discovered a podcast called The Nerdist. I knew the host; his name was Chris Hardwick. I had seen him perform in the comedy tent at Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, and he made me laugh incredibly hard. I remember exactly what it was too; a Harry Potter sexual entendre joke. I was dying. Years went by, and his name would pop up here and there.
One day, I came across an article on a website called Alternative Press, where he had interviewed one of my favorite vocalists, Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance). Gerard is a comic book writer and author, so they were talking to him about his work on a series called The Umbrella Academy. I was intrigued from the start. Everything about the podcast immediately pulled me. I started to obsessively listen to the show. After only last month, I had completely caught up, and I had listened to 960 episodes of his show. I’m going to say that number again: 960. I started from the beginning at the tail end of 2015, and listened to his show in order. It took me over three years to listen to all of them. I was that dedicated, and that willing to absorb every piece of advice, every interview tactic, every entrepreneurial idea I could get my hands on. I was completely at his will.
So, who is Chloe Dykstra? During the couple years of the podcast, Chris had brought on a woman named Chloe. She was often heard in the background, or would jump on in the intros. She was his girlfriend, and they always seemed incredibly happy and funny together. A wonderful match. Which is why I was dumbfounded when I heard him say that they had broken up in an episode of his show later down the road. It didn’t really make any sense. Then again, it wasn’t my business at the end of the day.
I told my girlfriend in our initial text that Chloe was the former girlfriend of Chris Hardwick, and a video gamer/cosplayer famous on the Internet. I had really always wondered why she had gone so quiet and why there was no information regarding what happened. Then today happened.
Ms. Dysktra released an article via Medium that alleged she was emotionally and sexually abused throughout the course of her three year relationship with Chris Hardwick. Within three seconds, I went through all five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Ever since the #MeToo movement has become prominent, and rightfully so, within popular culture, I have believed that anyone that I have looked up to throughout my entire life could be a suspect or an abuser, no matter how they look to the outside world. Did I want to immediately deny that Chris Hardwick, the guy that gave me a hug and brought me on his podcast in San Francisco in front of an audience at SF Sketchfest and told me that I matter, was incapable of doing things like this? The guy that I gave concert photography photos to that I had worked my ass of to capture, that I presented to him and the other co-hosts of his show because I wanted to show him that he encouraged me to overcome feelings and thoughts of suicide, get up, and do something with my life? Of course I did. That’s the first stage of grief.
But I believe her.
I read the article, and I cried. I cried hard, pathetically, in the bathroom stall at work, away from everyone. I cried for myself, I cried for the thousands of people that I know were impacted by Mr. Hardwick’s work and only knew him to be this wonderful person, for the people that had changed their lives for the better because of him. I cried for my girlfriend because she knew how much I wanted to be like him and how much of a dick I’ve been in the past for taking on so many extra hours of work and thinking that I need to obsess about advancing in my life and career so the people that fucked me over can see me be “successful” and how toxic that has been to our relationship. I cried for all of the people on his team that have worked for him, that I’ve also got to meet and have known to incredibly upstanding people who love everything about nerd culture and the communities that have been fostered within it. But most importantly, I cried for Chloe, because had I known that any of this had been happening when I started listening to the show, I would have stopped instantaneously.
As of around 9:30 this evening, Mr. Hardwick made a statement. It’s incredibly hollow. I don’t believe him. It breaks my heart to write this, but I don’t. The statement in question takes everything that Ms. Dykstra has said, turns it back at her by saying that “she cheated, so I ended the relationship” and then going further to restate how “she wanted me back, but I could never be with someone who was unfaithful”. So what if she cheated? Apparently, you were a bit of a cunt to her. If she did cheat, that’s between you and her. That has nothing to do with whether or not you did any of the shit that she alleges you did.
Chris, I thought the point of the “ID10T” phrase was about taking accountability for your mistakes and your previous actions. Clearly, I was wrong, because it doesn’t seem like you’re owning up to what has happened. You’re one of the “Kings of the Internet”, and yet you’ve been radio silent all day. Nothing. Not even a, “I’ve seen this. I will be making a statement to explain everything later”. You released it through a fucking press outlet. Not even your personal Twitter page.
This is the part that leaves me conflicted. Do I still admire the things I’ve seen Chris Hardwick do for nerd culture, and the way that he’s been able to bring people together, inspire happiness, create meaningful conversations and events, and inspire others to make a change in their lives? Yes. Am I still happy about the fact that he encouraged me, both indirectly and directly, to make a massive change in my life, throw my caution to the wind, and start to follow my dreams and live life with a “fuck what other people say, this is who I am” notion? Yes.
Can I support him anymore given what I’ve read and heard from someone that I truly believe? As of right now, no. I can’t. It breaks my heart, but I can’t do it. I hope that one day, I will be able to again. I truly, sincerely hope that one day, he will be able to take responsibility and accountabilty for his actions. But right now, I can’t. I have to grieve, along with many others who looked up to him.
I’ve always had a bit of a flair for the dramatic, and I’m sorry if it has come off as a soliloquy rather than an honest piece of writing. On second thought, maybe I did, if I’m being honest with myself now. It’s just so hard to not write with this much passion when a person you’ve believed in for so long ended up being different than you actually believed them to be.
After I read what I read this morning, I didn’t really know whether or not to keep going. But I’ve taken some time throughout the day to really look back on what I’ve done in the past several years. Have I made mistakes? Sure. Everyone does. But does that mean that I should give up? No.
When I got into the offices of the radio station this afternoon, I found a small, rolled up piece of paper from a co-worker. Said co-worker is leaving the station to go and start a new chapter of her life in a different city. The rolled-up piece of paper in question was an autographed poster of my favorite band that had been hanging on the wall of her office. Attached was a little note that read, “You deserve this. Keep grinding.” That was all the motivation I needed, and it was a reminder for me to never give up.
One day, I will move past this. But right now, I’m going to grieve, and I stand with her. I believe her. And I’m sorry.
“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” - Eleanor Roosevelt.